Competitive Eating / Drinking Deaths category

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT has settled a lawsuit with the family of Caitlin Nelson who passed away after choking in a 2017 pancake eating contest held by her sorority. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

One year anniversary of Juliet Lee’s passing

Today marks the one year anniversary of Fox 5 DC’s article about the passing of Juliet Lee, which was announced on the MLE website the day before. This remains the only significant information about the shock death, with no additional salient media coverage, autopsies, or criminal investigations having been promulgated since that date. A statement about the passing was picked up by Patch.com and several other outlets, which gave a date for the tragedy as September 9, 2019. Several social media comments contradicted that infomation, and gave her final date as August 16, 2019.

Searching the Montgomery County (MD) police database for mid-August 2019 events in Germantown, MD (Juliet’s hometown) brings up the following incident on which appears to correspond to Juliet Lee’s passing. The record is of minimal interest until the penultimate field, which is “SUDDENDEATHUNDETERMIND”. [I have redacted the address field even though it has only a street name and lacks a house number]

Direct linking to the entry is not allowed; if you want to view it for yourself, the easiest way is probably to go the police database website and search for Crime Report #190039103. This brings up the question: if the incident was labeled a crime, what was the result of the criminal investigation? Other unanswered questions include:

  • If the August 16 date is accurate, why did 24 days elapse between the tragedy and any announcement of it?
  • Who contacted Major League Eating about the fatality and when was that information provided?
  • Was Juliet Lee transported to a hospital and what medical personnel attended her?
  • Other than the Fox 5 article, why was there minimal media coverage of the incident? As far as I know. the Washington Post (Motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness”) and its associated social media outlets have made absolutely no mention of Juliet Lee’s passing. (Washington Post search link)
  • Why was the record in the Montgomery County police database categorized as “WORKING CODE” ?
  • Why was Juliet Lee’s husband (or ex-husband), Joe Callow, not mentioned in the statement about her death; Juliet’s daughters are the only relatives mentioned.
  • Juliet Lee’s final video for Major League Eating was uploaded on August 22, six days after August 16. When was that video filmed and who recorded and uploaded it?
  • Why was there was no posting about Juliet Lee’s passing on MLE social media until the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest in July? A post at the bottom of majorleagueeating.com was the sole mention by the organization.

2019 EatFeats post about the fatality. An anonymous comment appears to have some inside information about the incident.

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Shine.cn on big eating video deprecation

Shine.cn has an article about the deprecation of big eating videos on Chinese streaming platforms which mentions the passing of a host in Shenyang, Liaoning Province just before he was to broadcast himself eating a large bowl of pork belly in June. Some Chinese big eaters have rebranded, with @大胃mini (big stomach mini) changing her ID to @梨涡少女mini (dimple girl mini). The article calls into question the authenticity of some of the videos:

In reality, the body simply cannot handle extreme quantities of food every day. To keep viewers, hosts must cheat, either throwing up after the show, or cutting scenes where they spit out food they’ve chewed, making viewers believe they have actually eaten everything.

Loyal followers are very defensive when questions are raised about unusual eating habits, saying their favorite hosts are just “born that way” and there are frequent quarrels with others who question the authenticity of videos.

update Aug 22 The BBC also has an article about the decline of eating videos.

update Aug 24 The New York Times has an article.

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Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport, CT announced they will sue its food service provider that produced the pancakes used in a fatal pancake eating contest held March 2017. (The current athletics director of SHU is former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who ate 120 pancakes to win a contest when he was a college student.) update Tim Janus has offered to testify in favor ot Chartwells, the food service provider.
Bill "El Wingador" Simmons posted a tribute to the winner of Wing Bowl 2 and 3, Kevin "Heavy Keavy" O'Donnell, who recently passed away following a struggle with cancer. He is one of five multiple Wing Bowl Winners: Simmons (5), Joey Chestnut (3), Molly Schuyler (3), Jonathan Squibb (3), O'Donnell (2). update Crossing Broad and the Gloucester City News have obituaries.
News.ru reports (translated) that a woman passed away after choking in a cake eating contest held in Moscow on February 15. (via Nikolay Smirnov) update Metro.co.uk has a video of the contest and gives the name of the deceased as Alexandra Yudina. update Daily Mail and Mirror have articles.

Woman passes away after competing in Australia Day lamington eating contest

update Jan 29 Daily Mail has an article about the deceased giving her name as Megan Moon and her age as 51.

update Jan 27 Yahoo, CNN and the BBC have articles. The hotel has posted a statement on its facebook page.

News.com.au reports that a 60 year old woman passed away after choking and suffering a seizure while competing in an Australia Day lamington (sponge cake) eating contest held at the Beach House Hotel in Hervey Bay, QLD. (Newsweek | Daily Mail | SMH video)

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Hentgee Lim has an article in medium.com about pretending to be a college friend of Keigo Kirino, who passed away due to choking in a rice ball eating contest, and interviewing his family.
A Creators.com column by Scott LaFee mentions the recent passing of Juliet Lee, which still has a completely unknown cause.
Daily Mail reports that Subhash Yadav passed away after being challenged by his friend to eat 50 eggs in Uttar Pradesh, India. Doctors ruled that his death was due to complications from overeating.

RIP Juliet Lee 1965-2019

MajorLeagueEating.com has sad and shocking news: an obituary for Juliet Lee has been posted. No details about her passing are provided and I have not been able to track down any additional sources of information.

update Fox 5 has an article with these quotes from George Shea

“Juliet was in very good health and if you think of the number of times competitive eaters attend contests each year, it might be 3-10 contests a year so its not over the course of a year, an extraordinary addition of calories or both. …i have never heard of any impact like that. I can say that it certainly had nothing to do with competitive eating,” said Shea.

update Sept 23 A commenter gives the date of Juliet’s passing as August 16, more than three weeks before the date of September 9 in the MLE obituary. A comment on a Germantown Pulse facebook post also gives August as the month of passing.

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Competitor in Fresno Grizzlies taco qualifier passes away

update #5MLE have made their first social media update since Tuesday’s tragedy with an Instagram post about Badlands Booker’s new video. The Sacramento Bee has an article The family has set up a fundraising page on facebook

update #4 Yahoo.com has an interview with the family of the deceased. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office announced that choking was the cause of death.

Another tweet promoting Tuesday’s contest as a MLE qualifier has been deleted (Original URL) Here is a screen capture:

update #3Saturday’s contest has been removed from the MLE schedule.

update #2 Saturday’s MLE contest has been cancelled (Fresno Bee article)

The Fresno Grizzlies have deleted the June 26 tweet promoting last night’s contest as a MLE qualifier. Here is a screenshot:

update The Fresno Grizzlies have posted an official statement which denies that last night’s contest was MLE sanctioned or a qualifier for a MLE event. The contest was promoted as awarding a spot in Saturday’s MLE contest. The Fresno Grizzlies held qualifiers in 2017 and 2018. Both competitions were won by Zach Armas, who took 6th and 5th place in the MLE events.

The Fresno Bee reports that a competitor in last night’s taco eating contest at the Fresno Grizzlies ballpark passed away. The competition was to have awarded a spot in Saturday’s MLE contest. I believe this is the first fatality connected with a sanctioned event in American competitive eating history. Details about the incident:

Fans at the game said a man collapsed to the ground in the middle of the taco eating contest. Emergency medical technicians then attempted the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics arrived in an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him, fans added.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the man collapsed.

Comments (62)

NZ Herald reports that Philip Andrew Ludermann passed away on June 29 after choking in a pie eating contest held at a rugby club in New Zealand. Stuff.co.nz also has an article about the incident with quotes from Nela Zisser.
A new playground in Clark, NJ was dedicated to Caitlin Nelson, who passed away after choking in a pancake eating contest on April 2, 2017 at Sacred Heart University.
Unscrambled.sg reports that a Japanese woman passed away last week after choking during the "Onigiri challenge", an attempt at eating a rice ball without drinking in under 30 seconds. The incident was livestreamed on her youtube channel. (translated Korean article).
24 year old beauty therapist Bethan Gaskin passed away after she choked after attempting to see how many Jaffa Cakes she could fit in her mouth in Bourne, England on February 22.
Znak.com reports that a 45 year old man died on March 8 while competing in a pancake eating contest in Vladimir, Russia. (via XSovietNews)
Patch.com reports that a playground will be built in Clark, NJ in honor of Caitlin Nelson, who passed away after choking in a pancake eating contest held at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT on March 30, 2017.
Former boxer Mario Melo passed away after competing in a croissant eating contest in Pinamar, Argentina. In 1990 he faced off against Michael Moorer for the WBA light heavyweight world title. The 56 year old was believed to have diabetes. updateTMZ has an article with a video of the incident (warning: disturbig)
The Hartford Courant reports that the family of Caitlin Nelson is suing Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT for allowing a pancake eating contest on March 30, 2017 that resulted in her death following choking. The objective of the lawsuit is not just to exact monetary damages, but to "expose the danger of amateur eating contests and to prevent other families from experiencing such a tragedy".
The Zambia Daily Mail reports that Nkole Mulambia, an 11 year old student died after choking during an eating contest held at his school.
The Hindu reports that a 14 year old girl passed away in Neelankarai, India after fainting in a samosa eating contest she was having with friends. This is the second competitive eating fatality in India in 2018.
Tamil.samayam.com reports that a competitor in an idly eating contest in Pudukkottai, India passed away after choking. Vikatan.com and puthiyathalaimurai.com also have articles. update Jan 18 New Indian Express has an English article which states that the competition did not allow entrants to drink. update Jan 22 The International Business Times has an article giving the name of the deceased as S Chinnathambi
Popular Science has a column asking "Is it possible to eat so much that your stomach explodes?" which claims that there have been six documented cases of stomach rupture due to overeating.
Newtown Bee has a report on the "Celebration of Kindness and day of remembrance" held in Newtown, CT on October 27 to honor Caitlin Nelson, who passed away after choking in a pancake eating contest held at Sacred Heart University in March.
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